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Order to stop bullying against charitable organisation dismissed by FWC

Background

In August 2016, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) handed down a decision dismissing an order to stop bullying—the seventh of its kind concerning the FWC's bullying jurisdiction, which came into effect on 1 January 2014. Sparke Helmore Lawyers acted for the Respondent in this matter, a charitable organisation providing community services, through our Pro Bono Program.

The Applicant, an employee of the charity, sought orders from the FWC against her manager to stop bullying under s 789FC of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The alleged bullying conduct included overburdening her workload, requesting she perform "unreasonable" work tasks, making accusations about her work ethic and belittling her in front of other team members. Despite steps taken following two mediation sessions, the Applicant filed a general protections claim on 12 January 2016 and made a bullying complaint to SafeWork NSW.

Client objectives

Our client's objective was to demonstrate that the actions stated in the bullying complaint to SafeWork NSW did not constitute bullying and that, where possible, it had actioned the Applicant's requests to address her concerns as well as taken measures to rebuild the working relationship between the two parties.

Role

Workplace Partner Roland Hassall appeared before the FWC, successfully defending the bullying and harassment claim.

Outcomes

We successfully represented the client by demonstrating to the FWC that it had executed reasonable management action and that it had carried out fair and transparent investigations into the employee's allegations.

Consequently, the FWC found that the evidence did not support allegations of unreasonable behaviour by the Applicant's manager and it made the rare decision to dismiss the order to stop bullying.